J. Max Bond, Jr., architect, educator, and role model to generations of architects who strove to match his integrity and determination in the fight against discrimination, died on Wednesday morning at age 73, according to a statement issued by his longtime firm Davis Brody Bond Aedas.
Guided by a fierce sense of duty and an irresistibly gentle demeanor, Bond showed that a personal commitment to social responsibility was never at odds with a devotion to excellence in architecture. These were lessons hard learned over years that included enduring a cross burning outside his dorm and a professor advising him to change fields because “there have never been any famous, prominent black architects” when he studied at Harvard in the 1950s.
He stayed on to get both his Bachelor’s and Master’s in architecture. A Fulbright then took him abroad, to Paris where he studied Le Corbusier’s buildings and to Tunisia and Ghana where he paid no less attention to the powerful simplicity of desert vernacular. The Bolgatanga Library he designed in Ghana remained one of his personally most significant achievements.
Bond’s career took deep root in New York City, where he immediately fostered a singular approach to creative activism with works such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama.
In 1969, he co-founded Bond Ryder and Associates, which quickly became one of the nation’s leading African-American-led architecture firms, merging in 1990 with Davis Brody & Associates, with high-profile projects ranging from the Studio Museum of Harlem to a modernist expansion to the Harvard Club of New York. He is also the design architect, working with the Israeli-born architect Michael Arad, on the World Trade Center Memorial Museum.
In 2004, Rick Bell, now executive director of the AIA New York chapter, told a Washington Post reporter, “he’s opened people’s eyes not only to other people’s worlds but also to the interconnection of the real world with the design world.”
On Wednesday night, James Polshek, a friend of many decades and frequent collaborator, told AN, “In recent weeks, we gained a president, but we have lost a king.”
Julie V. Iovine
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